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Thumbs Up Australia, Hitchhiking Oz by Tom Parry

Thumbs Up Australia, a travelogue about hitchhiking across Oz by Tom Parry.

Thumbs Up Australia by Tom Parry is a pleasant tale of a meek English journalist and his volatile French girlfriend hitching around Australia. Parry’s girlfriend, Katia, thinks he’s half-crazy but he finally talks her into the whole hitchhiking thing, omitting any mention of the gruesome serial murders of hitchhikers that left behind a legacy of paranoia in the Australian psyche.

On the face of it, Thumbs Up Australia is a pleasant enough jaunt and what it lacks in adventure it makes up for in the droll caricatures that Tom Parry sketches. His mild observations make a nice foil to the explosive temper of his hitchhiking partner and the two of them find enough serendipity on the road to make anyone head down to the nearest highway and stick their thumb out.

Hitchhiking has gone out of fashion in the West (although Eastern Europeans still keep the flag flying) and it’s refreshing for a mainstream journo like Parry to take the ancient art seriously, even fanatically at times, outlining his hitching code of conduct and philosophy in charming detail.

Parry breaks up his travelogue with the tired mechanism with comparing his jaunt to that of ancient explorers, in this case, John McDouall Stuart, the first man to walk across Australia on foot. The history is mildly interesting but feels more like the kind of thing publishers insist on seeing before they agree to sign any contracts.

Still, Road Junky was sent a copy for free and anyone who popularises hitching gets our vote. Thumbs Up Australia is well worth shoplifting the next time you pass through an airport bookshop.